Impressions- Dungeon Blitz beta
Dungeon Blitz, for the benefit of the vast chunk of the human race that has never heard of it, is a free-to-play MMO, currently in Beta, that is best described as a “side-scrolling semi-metroidvania-ish-shooter-beat-em-up-thingy”. Now Dungeon Blitz is, as far as MMOs go, not a hard game. That needs to be said before anything else. There are no character builds that must dogmatically be followed to create a character capable of fighting a boss without being reduced to a reddish non-Newtonian fluid. Character level only determines what level of equipment you can use, and equipment is distributed evenly enough that you’ll rarely run into something capable of doing more than sneezing at you derisively before having its soul ripped from its body and stored in your EXP bar (this is how I assume it works). Losing all of your health doesn’t boot you back to level one with no equipment and a sign over your character’s head that says “This person is a moron. Mock him in your spare time.” Instead, you’ll be forced to pause for a grand total of ten seconds, all enemies will regain their health, and your ancestors will be forever shamed. That’s it. And, most damning of all, you don’t have to grind for fifteen hours to go up one level. Instead, the game is paced well enough that you’ll usually be at the level you need to be at by the time you unlock a new area.
I don’t think I need to emphasize how strange that last part seems to me for a free MMO. I’ve played plenty of free-to-play MMOs before, and my experience with most of them involved walking around a room killing some guy who must have one hell of an insurance plan over and over again until I heard the leveling up sound that gave me permission to have fun. With Dungeon Blitz, I played the quests in the first area, unlocked the next, and found to my astonishment that I was at the appropriate strength to deal with them. The same proved true with the next area. And the next. It is, quite shockingly, paced.
Even on the few occasions when I found myself flailing madly at unstoppable juggernauts of enemies, it usually only lasted until I found one more piece of equipment to round out my character. You see, the game decides all stats and abilities based on what sort of equipment you’re wearing. I personally don’t understand how wearing a fancier hat can make you swing a sword faster, but it’s an RPG tradition and I’ll be damned if they start making sense anytime soon. I assume that the default explanation in this game is “magic”, because, in addition to handing out the requisite percentages that I’d only really notice in the short term if I had a graphing calculator and a severely eggheaded way of thinking, different types of equipment also have the much more noticeable effect of determining what secondary abilities a character has. This means that, determining what sort of belt is equipped, a mage could be shooting fire out of the wrists, suffocating enemies with poison gas, or trapping them in a block of ice. Belts are evidently much more hardcore in the Dungeon Blitz universe.
Unfortunately, specific equipment drops are still infrequent enough that the player doesn’t really get a say in what horrible death they want their enemies to receive. By the time you’ve found a belt that gives you the option of using a different ability than the one you have, you’ll have probably progressed far enough that it’ll outperform your current one in every department. It’ll be some sort of Batman-esque super belt, whereas you’ll be sporting a shabby leather monstrosity held together only by bits of string and its own shame. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer your current ability or not- if you don’t switch over to the Batman belt, you’ll be taking much more punishment from enemies. Granted, like I said, the game isn’t exactly hard, to the point where I assume that being knocked unconscious more than a few times would cause a hand to spring out of your monitor and pat your head while saying “There, there,” but it’s still annoying enough to cause a change in behavior. The end result of this is, especially in the early parts of the game, the player’s secondary abilities are essentially random.
This, however, is the extent of my bemoanings with the game. The quest system works surprisingly well- due to the way that the levels are laid out, the commandment “Thou shalt kill fifteen enemies” really just becomes something to do on your way to finding out what the boss of that dungeon looks like, and the way you can swat around the weaker enemies like the flyswatter from hell makes it actually enjoyable. The three classes play differently enough that you can justify having three different characters, but are balanced enough that one of them won’t become an ubermensch that uses the other two as sock puppets. Although most of the dialogue is your standard MMO affair of vague reassurances from questgivers and equally vague portents of doom from the enemies, somebody on board the writing staff was brave enough to try and slip genuinely clever dialogue into an MMO, something that is usually met with a firing squad in the free-to-play MMO market. So, in short, it isn’t terribly complex, and talc is significantly harder than this game, but I’ve had a lot more fun with it than I would’ve expected. Give it a shot; you can open up the window and be playing the game in under thirty seconds. You can probably be at level five in less than forty.